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244            A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
as though it were nothing more than a t>iece of harmless rope, instead of a living medium of crawling death.
He flung it flat upon the ground, let it coil for a moment, and immediately caught it by the tail. The snake twisted one way and another, displaying a surprising agility, but could not escape from his grip. He next picked it up oy the throat, just behind the head, and again held it aloft, inviting me to come closer and examine the victim of his art. The reptile's body swayed to and fro; it hissed loudly and continuously, in a fit of fury at its capture; its forked tongue shot out and back at lightning speed, but Moussa's grasp was like iron. When it found there was no escape, the infuriated cobra calmed down a little, apparently biding its time. At this point Moussa uttered a strong adjuration and let the snake slip from his grasp. It slid this way and that in the dust, whereat Moussa's hand touched the tail again as a protective measure.
It had the familiar pattern of its kind, and in its livery of green and yellowish grey looked very colourful.
I approached a pace or two closer and studied it with interest. Its hood, bearing those curious marks which look like a pair of spectacles, marks that identify its species, remained expanded, and a slightly sickly odour emanated from the scaled body. The creature was about five feet long and two and a half inches thick. Its sinister little eyes stared malevolently and unwinkingly at the Sheikh. The latter half-chanted a fresh spell, into which he put all his power of command and resolution. Pointing his forefinger at the snake he bade it lay its head in his hand, at the same time forbidding it to bite him. The snake hissed, seemingly resisting him, and darted out its forked tongue; but slowly, extremely slowly, all the time staring at its captor with its beaay eyes, it moved forward and at last yielded to what seemed inevitable.
The cobra ceased its hissing and sofdy placed its head inside the flattened, upturned palm of the charmer I There it rested, as a child might rest its tired head upon its mother's lap, limp and quiescent.
It was a sight that I had never witnessed before and certainly a weird one. I watched with bated breath.
I wanted to test the genuineness of this charmer's feat, and of his snakes, to prove whether they were really venomous. I obtained a large tablespoon and asked Moussa to thrust it into the red little mouth, which he did. As those jaws dosed on the